Until yesterday, I was a member of the secret facebook group, Pantsuit Nation (Me and about four million other people.) Until yesterday, whenever a member posted their personal stories, struggles, or accomplishments in the group, the other members would rally in support, comfort, encouragement or celebration. The stories and pictures from members were poignant, insightful, inspiring or even courageous. Yesterday, all that changed. Suddenly members were responding with shock, disgust, and anger at an excited post from the founder, LibbyChamberlain, announcing her success landing a book deal. So unlike the encouragement and congratulations offered in response to other members when they post about an accomplishment or ambition. This was Libby’s announcement:
“PANTSUIT NATION, I have some news…
I am *beyond* excited to announce that there is going to be a book. A Pantsuit Nation book. A book of YOU. A book BY YOU. A permanent, beautiful, holdable, snuggle-in-bed-able, dogear-able, shareable, tearstainable book. Your voices. Your stories. Our community. Our project. Our message of hope and change… I believe Pantsuit Nation was more important on the morning of November 9 than it was on the morning of November 8. Our charge going forward – our MISSION – is no less than to shift the course of history. And we’ll do it through stories.
You were able to click on that link because, just today, the secret “Pantsuit Nation” group was changed to a public group.
So now I have a message to Libby
I am *beyond* shocked that Pantsuit Nation is turning into a “permanent, beautiful, holdable, snuggle-in-bed-able, dogear-able, shareable, tearstainable” freak show in print. With your announcement yesterday, you might as well have said, “step right up. Don’t be shy. For just $30.00 you can pre-order an intimate look into the wounded, fragile, liberal psyche. Rest assured all of the unfortunates exposing their pain for your study have willingly included themselves in my collection of grotesques.”
I’m sure you will be very successful and I’m sure all the objection, controversy, and protestation will only draw more attention to your book and help to sell even more copies. Well played, Libby. You’ve got a real winner here. Enjoy your success. It will be much easier for you than for Brandon Stanton and his Humans of New York because he actually took the pictures, interviewed the people and wrote the vignettes. (Another way of saying that is he actually did the work.) You however have only to pluck your completed material from Pantsuit Nation members like low-hanging fruit. How can you call yourself the “author” of Pantsuit Nation on the Amazon book pre-order page (which I refuse to link to)?
Libby claims that all the stories included in the book will be published with permission from the original person posting it. But those posts only exist for her to glean and recruit from because she lured vulnerable people in with the promise of a “secret” facebook group as a safe place to share their post-election pain and feelings of vulnerability facing a Trump administration. Huffington Post reports shady behavior leading up to the book announcement and cites unresolved questions about how (or if) contributors will be paid. There are also opaque references to forming a non-political, non-profit organization but it is unclear how much (if any) of the book’s proceeds will go to the (as yet, nonexistent) 501(c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) charity. The book is already being sold for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble with Libby credited as the sole author.
So what do you think, wander-readers? What are the ethics of becoming an “author” under these circumstances?
Read ~ Write ~ Wander